Sankofa: "It Is Not Taboo to Go Back and Pick up That Which You Have Forgotten"

Thursday, 2 August 2012: 1:55 PM

Teddie Potter, PhD, MS, RN
School of Nursing, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

A critical review of nursing fundamental textbooks revealed lacklustre nursing history content.  The current historical nursing narrative does not inspire nursing students to practice to the highest level of their profession and it does not demonstrate insights for solving critical health care issues today.

History however, is full of nurses who dared to create new models of care.  Content analysis of autobiographies by Mary Seacole, Florence Nightingale, Lillian Wald, Margaret Sanger, Walt Whitman, Mary Breckinridge, Mamie Odessa Hale, and Sister Elizabeth Kenny revealed common themes that can shape nursing curriculum.  Themes included:

  • Use of statistics to support actions
  • The importance of astute observation
  • An international perspective
  • Nursing as a “calling”
  • Multiple ways of knowing
  • The importance of offering caring hospitality to strangers or those in need
  • The relationship between emotions and disease
  • The need to individualize the treatment plan

In the landmark paper, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, the Institute of Medicine (2010) recommended nurses practice to the full extent of their education.  In addition, nurses should be full partners with other health professionals in redesigning the health care system in the United States. Historical nursing exemplars courageously embodied these criteria.  Their stories can inspire and illuminate the path for nurses today.